Auto Service World
Feature   July 13, 2016   by Steve Pawlett

Top Nine Retail Exhaust Tips

As many in the industry are aware, the performance exhaust market is an ever-evolving one, going from the fast and furious tuner market, to modern domestic muscle, to trucks and SUVs – seemingly at the drop of a hat. Here are 10 key retail tips to help you get the most out of every retail sales opportunity.

1 | Be the place to go
Establish your shop as the premier place to go for the performance enthusiast. Manufacturers are happy to provide your shop with signage material and display pieces that will clearly identify your store as a serious provider of specialized performance parts. Such material can provide a competitive advantage, particularly in terms of retail sales, as the right image can place your shop in the top-of-mind category among potential customers.

2 | Identify the customer
Identifying the target customer doesn’t take as much intuition as you might think, as there are some telltale signs for those who take the time to look for them. Training your counter staff to pick up on these cues is a key step towards improving their sales figures in this exceptionally profitable segment. The process starts with examining the kind of vehicle the customer drives. In the old days, it was usually just the lowered, tricked-out import driver that was looking for a performance exhaust system to impress his friends, but today’s performance market has experienced a dramatic shift. Now, anyone from the contractor with a tonneau on his pick-up to the empty nester with a new Detroit muscle car is a likely candidate. Aftermarket parts demonstrate an initial interest in customization that your counter staff should pick up on. At the very least, it’s a way to begin engaging the customer in a conversation on the benefits of a performance exhaust system.

3 | Customize your approach
According to some automotive aftermarket industry experts, jobbers need to customize their sales approach when it comes to performance exhaust parts. Customers are interested in performance mufflers for dramatically different reasons, and the counterperson needs to be astute enough to approach each sales opportunity from any number of different angles. Horsepower, fuel efficiency for dollar savings, or environmental concerns, all are reasons for a customer to upgrade his OE system. So it is vitally important that the counterperson identifies why the individual client is interested, and sells him based on that area of interest.

4 | Use POS
Performance exhaust manufacturers are among the most active product suppliers out there when it comes to building customer knowledge. With that in mind, most of them are chomping at the bit to give you and your counter staff all the necessary point-of-sale material they can, in order for you to both attract and educate walk-in customers. POS material also has the added bonus of identifying your store with recognizable brands and respected manufacturers, allowing you to take advantage of their marketing dollars and public image.

5 | Need vs. want selling
It is far easier to sell people something if they need it, than if they simply want it. As a result, if your customer comes in and absolutely must have a new muffler because the one he has is sending sparks flying, you have a very motivated buyer on your hands. The flipside is the customer who has just purchased a new car, but is looking into a performance system for it. This customer demands your attention, and deserves your time. He may ask a lot of questions, but you owe him that time. Treat this customer well, and you’ll likely have him as a customer for all of his customizing whims.

6 | Don’t get too technical
Years ago, most people doing custom performance work on their cars were themselves mechanical experts. This aspect of the business has certainly changed dramatically, with the proliferation of performance exhaust systems for everything from SUVs to minivans. Today, counter staff have to be prepared to sell performance parts to a wide range of customers, using an even wider range of selling points. Given the nature of this shift, and the kinds of people that are into performance exhaust systems today, an overly mechanical sales approach could lose a potential customer in a sea of jargon. By selling based on factors the customer can understand and appreciate, such as increased horsepower or fuel efficiency, you’ll be more likely to keep him on the hook.

7 | Use the web to educate customers
According to many top manufacturers, today’s performance exhaust customer may not be extraordinarily savvy in terms of installation or mechanical processes involved in his potential purchase, but he is a technology-savvy consumer. With that in mind, counter staff should be ready to direct a consumer to various manufacturers’ websites, as well as provide them with other high-tech data involved in the process. While it may still be important to shy away from the shop talk, today’s tech-savvy customer will appreciate some of the more technical data if it is presented online or in some other multimedia format.

8 | Utilize manufacturer programs for online sales
Some manufacturers have taken the partnerships they establish with their jobbers to a whole new level when it comes to promoting their product and its availability. So many potential performance buyers research their purchase online prior to a shop visit that some manufacturers have offered to actually provide the contact details for jobbers in the region of the customer doing the initial search, so as to lead them to the right places. Normally some sort of membership with the manufacturer is required, but for a small fee, customers from your local area who are looking into a particular part can be led from the massive corporate manufacturers’ sites right to your door.

9 | Stainless steel should be stainless
No matter how obvious this point may seem, it is shocking the number of times this simple retail rule is forgotten in
the hustle and bustle of a busy jobber
store. Make sure it sparkles the way it
ought to. nJN

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